10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 7 in and around the SEC
Butch Jones is making it nearly impossible not to overreact to everything he does.
I’m trying, a’ight? Believe me. I almost never curse, but this guy is testing my vocabulary and my patience ….
Fortunately, there were a lot of crazy events in Week 7. I’m so tired of talking about Jim McElwain’s mishandling of Will Grier — and Grier’s subsequent success relative to Florida’s continued struggles — I’m just going to pretend Saturday didn’t happen.
Will Grier rallied West Virginia to 22 4Q points and win over No. 24 Texas Tech. Just an average 352-yard, 5 TD day. No big deal.
— Chris Wright (@FilmRoomEditor) October 14, 2017
OK, now I’ll pretend it didn’t happen. (You realize the reason Florida wore those uniforms was to divert your eyes from the offense, right? OK, now I’m done.) Point is, I could have overreacted to any one of 100 things, but I took a knee at 10 (kinda like the Vols and Gators do each week):
10. Week 7 is exactly why we need an 8-team Playoff.
Last week Mike Leach wondered why we don’t have 64 teams, 32 teams or at least 16 teams in the Playoff. Eight has always been the magic number: 5 automatic qualifiers and 3 at-large, including one from the Group of 5.
Critics pounced, predictably, saying the same foolish thing they always say: Four is the perfect number because it rewards the elite and eliminates the above average.
The problem with that, of course, is that there aren’t four crystal clear elite teams. There is one, maybe two. And then there are 30 that, as we saw throughout Week 7, can bust somebody’s dreams.
Four top-10 teams lost this weekend, including three that were undefeated.
Now what? Welcome to Here We Go Again, Round 4.
Every year we’re left with something that feels more like a lottery than a court case. The committee uses whatever criteria it wants to pick one of the six or seven quality one-loss teams instead of the others.
There’s no real criteria; these contenders almost never play each other and some of them don’t play any quality opponents outside their league at all.
It’s a mess. Going to eight teams and rewarding conference champions with an automatic berth would solve all of that, but that makes way too much sense.
The committee’s decisions have yet to make sense. But the process is primarily to blame. Until that changes, nothing else will.
Preach on, coach Leach. Preach on.
(Though after that performance Friday night, I’m not sure he would qualify for the 64-team Playoff, either.)
9. #collegekickers? What about #collegesnappers and #collegeholders?
Last week it was Florida botching a snap and hold, spinning the laces forcefully enough to spin the ball out of control. Eddy Pineiro got blamed for a miss, but it’s hard to kick a curveball. The Gators lost by 1.
Saturday, South Carolina’s Danny Gordon couldn’t catch a perfect snap. South Carolina missed a chance to take a lead. It didn’t cost them, but it could have.
It’s not just here. It’s everywhere.
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 15, 2017
— Clint Richardson (@Clintau24) October 15, 2017
— Jimmy Mack (@jcmack03) October 15, 2017
Every week it’s something with these guys. What else are they doing during practice?
8. Speaking of #collegekickers, this one is lucky to be alive.
Tennessee’s Brent Cimaglia is a 6-foot, 193-pound freshman kicker.
South Carolina’s D.J. Wonnum is a 6-4, 251-pound defensive lineman. Cimaglia is lucky Wonnum didn’t overreact to his overreaction.
HOLD ME BACK pic.twitter.com/ooxa5gHSXo
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 14, 2017
7. SEC fans are the greatest.
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) October 14, 2017
6. But I don’t think they’re gonna get their wish …
New quarterback, same stuck-in-1970s offense.
This was the first time since 2011 that Tennessee failed to score a touchdown in consecutive games. With Alabama looming, anybody want to bet against that streak growing to three next week?
Tennessee threw 10 passes — 10! — until its final possession in the fourth quarter, when it had no other option.
This has to be it for Butch Jones. He’s in Year 5, with his quarterbacks, his receivers, his everything. And this is the result.
Butch Jones had two weeks to prepare for South Carolina and Tennessee has negative offensive yardage in the second half.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 14, 2017
From bye-week champions to buh-bye.
5. If Vols somehow won that game, I’d be blasting Coach Boom.
As poorly and as flustered as Jarrett Guarantano looked in the final possession, why in the world would you call a timeout and give his coaches a chance to calm him down, take a deep breath and dial up (in theory, of course) your best play?
The final seconds were going way too fast. He’d nearly lost two fumbles, sitting in the pocket so long you wondered whether he’d ever taken a live rep in practice. He nearly took a sack that likely would have ended the game. He wasted six seconds between snaps, taking so long that his left guard turned and barked at him to hurry the hell up.
The freshman was panicking. Everybody could see it.
After a SC penalty gave Tennessee 1st-and-goal at the 2 with 4 seconds left, Will Muschamp called a timeout. Tennessee had none. I wouldn’t have done it. I would have forced the redshirt freshman making his first start to figure it out on his own.
Maybe Muschamp told the defense to not let John Kelly beat them. Who knows. But his timeout gave Guarantano a chance to reset, to relax.
The timeout worked only because Guarantano’s next pass was batted down, somehow leaving one second left, and his final pass was wide right.
Whatever Vols coaches told Guarantano didn’t work. Maybe that was Muschamp’s strategy all along?
4. Wrong again, Butch.
I know, I’m seriously trying to spread the loathe, but then Jones got angry with reporters who questioned why he — again — didn’t give John Kelly the ball on the final play.
Butch Jones got testy when asked if Tennessee thought about giving Johnk Kelly the ball on the goal line on the final series of the game pic.twitter.com/EtpDNcqCs8
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) October 14, 2017
To reset: 1st-and-goal at the 2, 4 seconds left.
There isn’t a Vols fan in the fine state of Tennessee who would have questioned lining up Kelly in the Wildcat, giving him the ball, and trusting him to find a way. Or merely going zone read to him, or simply turning and handing to him. But … something to him.
Maybe that’s why Muschamp called timeout, to warn his defense: Kelly is all they have. Stop Kelly. Stop Kelly. Stop Kelly.
Instead, Jones leaned on his redshirt freshman QB, the same guy he didn’t trust to play a snap against Florida, to make a play.
Twice, actually, after the quick bat down.
Nobody questions coaches who put the ball in the hands of their best player. Ever.
I’m getting angry just replaying this sequence.
3. The NCAA vs. UNC.
After today, expecting NCAA's next ruling to be NC State freshman Braxton Beverly can't play this year because he went to class.
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) October 13, 2017
OK, that’s funny if you live anywhere, but it’s downright hysterical if you’re from the Triangle, like I am. Hours after the NCAA cleared UNC, it ruled that N.C. State’s Beverly must sit out a year as a transfer after taking a class at Ohio State in May.
The timing was perfect or pathetic, depending on the flag flying outside your house.
Full disclosure: Before being hired at Saturday Down South, I was the ACC editor at The News & Observer. I helped manage coverage of the UNC scandal for three-plus years.
It was a mess. It was ugly. Parts of it were orchestrated. But unless there was evidence that UNC created these paper classes — they weren’t “fake,” by the way, they were real, just real easy — for athletes only, there was never anything the NCAA could punish. The NCAA has no jurisdiction over academic rigor. It never has. It could only punish an “impermissible benefit.”
Jay Bilas, a Duke guy, by the way, made that exact point over and over and over throughout the investigation. Bilas noted that similar academic accusations surfaced years ago at Auburn and Michigan, and the NCAA didn’t bother to investigate. Friday, he blasted the NCAA for wasting everybody’s time and millions of dollars on a case it knew it had no legal grounds to win.
From the start, it was clear NCAA rules did not cover this matter. What a colossal waste of time and money when NCAA knew it had no case. https://t.co/xpeJXv5gr5
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) October 13, 2017
Did UNC’s athletes benefit? Of course. So did plenty of frat boys in search of an easy A. I’ve seen the numbers. I studied the Wainstein Report. There were more regular students than athletes in these classes, and the overall percentage of UNC’s student body that took these classes was miniscule.
Nobody wants to hear that, though.
My wife is a UNC grad. The idea that her degree is somehow tarnished by this is about as ludicrous as me saying Kentucky’s basketball program stinks after watching an intramural game. One thing has nothing to do with the other.
The idea that because “UNC got away with it,” NOW every college is going to cheat its way to a title is laughable on so many levels.
— Matt Hayes (@MattHayesCFB) October 13, 2017
Now? Easy classes have existed everywhere for everybody. I took plenty of them. You probably did, too. Independent studies are part of the college experience. Clustering is so common that another newspaper I worked at, The Indianapolis Star, in 2010 did an investigation into athletes clustering in certain majors.
Interesting story, and certainly an affront to all that academia aims to be, but hardly illegal.
I get the anger, the outrage, the overreaction — especially from Kentucky and Duke fans, who wanted the NCAA to lower the boom on one of its chief basketball rivals.
But to think any of this is new or exclusive to Chapel Hill is to cover your eyes to the obvious.
Give UNC some credit, too. It cleaned house. It self-corrected. How embarrassed was it? It fired the chancellor … five years ago.
People ask why this went unchecked for so long? Policy. UNC had a policy that basically gave a department chairs free reign, without peer review. Remember, this scandal was confined to one department. That policy has since changed. Department chairs are now subject to peer review.
People also want to know why coaches didn’t stop it. There is a clear and intentional wall between athletics and academics because professors don’t want coaches having undue influence in their classroom.
Why? So things like this don’t happen: In the 1980s, N.C. State basketball players reportedly had grades changed after “promising” to try harder. Now that’s funny.
The numbers also show that not long after Roy Williams arrived, he noticed his basketball players taking a lot of the same classes. He stopped it. It wasn’t illegal, but Williams, a UNC graduate, wanted his players to broaden their academic experience.
Nobody is saying it’s a good look and nobody wants to hear about loopholes. They’re convinced UNC knowingly cheated and thousands and thousands camped out overnight to get into these classes. That’s a gross overreaction — though completely rational if you live in Raleigh, Durham or Lexington.
It’s a scandal made for GameDay signs, no doubt.
But it’s just as silly to suggest UNC athletes were the only ones in America taking an easy class.
Want to be angry? Be angry at the NCAA. But not too angry. There’s a good chance your favorite player isn’t carrying the workload Josh Dobbs did, either.
2. As in Georgia …
Last week I somewhat joked that Georgia should be ranked No. 1. I wasn’t joking when I wrote I think they’ll beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
No. 3 Penn State was idle. (I know, I know … that non-conference schedule equated to being idle every week.)
Georgia rolled so impressively that our senior national writer, Connor O’Gara, by way of the Big Ten, is starting to see the light.
Both undefeated Pac-12 teams lost Saturday. Clemson lost as well.
How weak could the SEC possibly be when it has the two best teams in the country?
1. “He could motivate a statue.”
LSU was done. A humiliating loss to Mississippi State. A homecoming loss to Troy. Done.
People were looking up buyout numbers, suggesting, five games in, that LSU had hired the wrong coach.
Coach O wasn’t having it. The righted the ship, ripping off consecutive victories over Top 25 programs in back-to-back weeks.
How? I keep going back to what his friends told us this summer, about the pride of Larose, La., who rose to be the king of football in Louisiana, about how he would not fail, about how he would never surrender.
One of the most telling parts in that story was a great line from a lifelong friend.
LSU honored its greats on Saturday. These Tigers might not be on their level yet, but Ed Orgeron, he’s got the Bayou buzzing.